Man pouring sand into a cup

It should come as no surprise that human beings have always been attracted to eccentric media. Plays, art, humor, you name it. And this appetite for absurdism has only increased. With Gen Z — a generation known for thriving in silliness — becoming a core target audience, the development of absurd advertisements has skyrocketed.

Ridiculous reminders

Examples of absurdism can be found throughout much of human history — some of the earliest noted examples dating back to the 1900s. But this surreal approach really hit marketing in the late 2000s and early 2010s.

During this time, If you tuned in to any popular television channel — especially MTV or VH1 — you’ll probably recall a few of these prime examples.

Here at MKR, we’ve mentioned the spongmonkeys of Quiznos subs quite often. Both internally and externally. It’s one of the most memorable examples of modern absurdist marketing. And even though these creatures were beyond strange, their presence increased sub sales immensely.

Quiznos spongmonkeys ad

Another company that put a stake in absurdism is Sour Patch Kids. They played into their slogan, “Sour. Sweet. Gone.” The brand personified the little candies as menaces that apologized for their atrocities afterward. This campaign became a staple of the brand and evoked strong brand recall from their audience.

However, there’s one candy that trumps all others in bizarre marketing. Skittles. Do you remember the “Taste the Rainbow” skits and jingles? What about the disturbing Skittles Teeth ad? And let’s not forget the most noteworthy example: Skittles Pox. The Mars Wrigley candy hit its niche market with these peculiar skits. And they pushed the creative bounds more than most other brands out there. So much so that these commercials are often recalled from memory without prompting.

Boy with Skittles on his face - Skittles Ad

Why it works

Bizarre ads may not make logical sense, and that’s the fun of them. But if they aren’t logical, why are they so effective?

This can be broken down into three parts.

1. Authenticity

As previously mentioned, Zoomers are drawn to unpredictability and humor. And many of them believe that the more a brand lets loose with their creativity, the more authentic they’re being. Why? Because younger generations view perfection in advertisements impersonal.

2. Relatability

Well-done absurdism shows that a brand listens to their audience, understands their sense of humor, and wants to make a genuine connection with them —by evoking positive emotions.

3. Unpredictability

The element of surprise is not a new notion. But it’s an effective one. It’s attention grabbing. According to Tilburg University, absurd ads are great at engaging consumers. And absurdity improves message comprehension, making these ad types more persuasive and memorable.1

But it’s not for everyone

Just as there are benefits to using offbeat creative approaches, there are cons as well.

Although it can create a sense of authenticity for some brands, that’s not always the case. Trying too hard to be out of the box with ideas can feel insincere — coming as trying too hard — and actually push consumers further away.

Pushing the whimsy too far can easily deter your audience. If you aren’t aware of current humor trends, paying attention to younger audiences, and listening to feedback, your jokes can easily fall flat.

And absurdism can sometimes overpower the message of your branding. It’s a fine line that you need to balance on like a tightrope. This is where it’s vital to know and understand your target audience.

Most notably, you need to be aware that this type of marketing can easily isolate certain demographics. Some people may not be receptive to this type of humor. Always consider who your target audience is and whether or not this type of humor would resonate with them.

Don’t feel like you have to push the envelope if it means straying too far from your brand voice and values.

Dabble in the absurd

So you’re interested in trying your hand at absurdism. Here are a few tips to help get you started.

1. Research

Marketing rules still matter when making absurd ads. So before jumping head first into this method, you need to identify your target audience. Your ultimate goal is to communicate effectively with them. When you know what drives them, then you’ll know if this is the right path for your brand.

2. Be Genuine

Along with knowing your audience, you need to know your brand, too. If you’re thinking about starting to branch out creatively, you need to take it slow. Test the waters and pay attention to how your campaigns are received. Ask yourself questions like: Does this suit our brand? Does this suit our messaging? And what are our overall goals?

3. Don’t Force It

Absurdism isn’t for everyone. And there’s a learning curve to it. So, try to balance your work. Don’t stunt your creativity, but also be open to adapting, revisiting, and revising your campaigns and strategy to make them stronger.

4. Have Fun

With internet humor being all the rage, many new doors are open in the realm of comedic marketing. And with humor comes subjective opinions. Some people will love it, while others won’t. That’s natural. Just let it happen and focus on the emotion you’re trying to evoke. At the end of the day, you’re just trying to make people smile.

For more tips and tricks of the trade, contact MKR — your local funny guys.